INDIANAPOLIS — Even as corporations halt donations to members of Indiana’s congressional delegation who declined to uphold presidential election results, campaign finance experts wonder whether there will be any impact.
Marjorie Hershey, a political science professor with Indiana University, outlined the various ways companies and big spenders can use various alternatives to bypass public commitments to cut off politicians financially.
“There are ways around this, and I don’t mean to suggest that any particular corporation is finding those ways around it. It may be that they’re being perfectly honest and they’re not giving any political money, period,” Hershey said. “But the avenue exists if they decide to follow it.”
Four Republicans from Indiana — U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski, Jim Banks, Jim Baird and Greg Pence — voted against certifying presidential election results from either Arizona, Pennsylvania or both, citing unverified claims of election fraud.
Combined, the four Indiana representatives received $313,500 from a group of 20 companies now pulling back on their political contributions. The biggest Indiana company to pull donations, Eli Lilly and Co., donated a combined $25,000 to the four members of Congress in the last campaign cycle.
Nationally, there are limits on what individuals can give to candidates, parties or political action committees (PACs), though those limits vary from state to state.
But people with the financial means can buy ads themselves, without directly giving to the candidate or cause, with very few limitations. Or a super PAC can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money without disclosing the source of financing.
Or a non-profit 501(c)(4) can do the same in the name of “social welfare activities,” as long as the messaging doesn’t explicitly use the word “vote” in reference to a candidate or cause.
While a company may publicly say it isn’t donating to a candidate, it could use one of these methods or a trade association as another way to funnel money into politics. With no major elections this year, Hershey said, people will have to wait to see whether companies keep their promises in the 2022 midterms.
“But you can’t, as a citizen, figure out where the money came from. And that’s a real kicker,” Hershey said. “Because that really violates the principle of a democracy that says people need to have equal access.”
Hershey pointed out that the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that free speech covers political spending, evolving into the system the United States uses today.
“Most other advanced industrial democracies limit the amount that people can give to campaigns,” Hershey said. “In a democracy, people are supposed to have equal influence through their votes. But if they have…
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